By WILLIAM TELFORD, Business Editor, The Plymouth Herald

SHOUT OUT: Kevin Kelway wants more gay people to lead businesses

A Plymouth businessman who is openly gay says there is a “glass closet” preventing homosexual people from making it to the top in business.

Kevin Kelway, a director of city PR firm Dorcas Media, wants to see more gay people leading top companies and organisations.

And he wants more gay people, who are perhaps uncertain about whether to reveal their sexuality at work, to feel able to do so comfortably.

Mr Kelway said: “I think it’s time for a symbolic ‘shout out’ – to demonstrate that gay people in business, and in the boardroom, are still lagging behind the rest of our society.

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“How many CEOs can we name who are gay in this city? Or who are running some of the region’s influential public or private companies?

“Acceptance of gay people in business is growing, but there is still some way to go in Plymouth and across the South West.

“We need more openly gay people in boardrooms and as business influencers.”

Mr Kelway, who “came out” in an interview with The Herald nine years ago, has written about what he terms the “glass closet” for the bi-monthly Chamber Profile magazine, published by Devon Chamber of Commerce, of which he is a member.

He said that when he revealed his sexuality it was “still an extraordinary thing to openly talk about being gay”.


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He added: “Nine years later British politicians, celebrities, presenters, and religious clergy come out of the closet and are able to express themselves all of the time, and it barely makes any headlines anymore.

“I’ve been in a long-term relationship with the same man over the past 26 years, and, yes, we are finally talking about a Civil Partnership this summer.

“But, being in local business is still very different in my opinion.”

He added: “Once upon a time local employers used to avoid hiring gay people unless you worked in professions that were homosexual friendly.

“There is an unusually high concentration of gay or lesbian workers in certain occupations: in law, university teaching, or the popular stereotypes from gay flight attendants to bus and truck drivers – but this is all changing very fast.

“Today young people find it easier to be ‘out’ at work, and, yes, more visible, and that wonderful word ‘proud’ is in the work place.

“Yes, local bosses have various reasons to employ gay people, where for diversity, employment policies, or work ethics.

“And our employment rights are changing rapidly, such as providing medical benefits for partners, though the tax system is still unfair to gay people.

“But more changes are still needed,” he stressed. “In the boardroom corporate cultures evolve more slowly, and there is still a ‘glass closet’ of business leaders and entrepreneurs still closeted at work.

“And especially the 50-plus business folk – who still keep quiet about their sexuality.”

Internationally there are some LGBT people who have made it to the top in business.

In 2016 Business Insider published a power list of gay business leaders topped by Inga Beale, the bisexual chief executive of Lloyd’s of London, and also featuring Elton John’s partner David Furnish, chief executive of Rocket Entertainment Group.

Also listed, in a top 23, was Alan Joyce of Qantas, and Antonio Simoes, boss at HSBC Bank.

Suki Sandhu, chief executive of OUTstanding, the LGBT networking group, said those on the list were “an inspiration to anyone who fears that they may have to be closeted at work”.


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